Exodus: “BLOOD IN, BLOOD OUT” (Album Review)Books/Art/Culture,News,Reviews Mars Homeworld
The first thing that comes to mind when listening to the opening track of Exodus’s new album, BLOOD IN, BLOOD OUT, is, that unlike several of the band’s peers, age has in no way mellowed the band in the slightest. “Black 13” is a crushing example of thrash metal done to perfection, as if the band were frozen in a block of ice in 1987 and then released to terrorize the populace (like Christopher Lee’s Dracula in the beginning of Hammer’s 1968 epic DRACULA HAS RISEN FROM THE GRAVE).
Fans who remember Exodus’s brand of “friendly, violent fun” will find the band in a darker place here; there are some truly brutal moments on this album, both musically and within the lyrics. In fact, it is within the lyrical subject matter that the band reaffirms metal music’s time-honored marriage to the horror genre, a pact cemented as soon as Black Sabbath essentially invented heavy metal by combining ominous riffing with lyrics like, “Satan sitting there, he’s smiling. Watch as those flames get higher and higher.” While those lyrics were firmly rooted in fantasy, Exodus explore subjects rooted in real world horror, such as decapitation by religious zealots in “Honor Killings” , the murderous legacy of the “Bind, Torture, Kill” serial killer in the track “BTK” (which features the bellowing background vocals of fellow Bay-Area thrash band Testament’s vocalist Chuck Billy), and involuntary organ stealing on “Body Harvest.” This is some seriously warped stuff; taken directly from the headlines of the crazy, demented world we live in.
Producer Andy Sneap delivers a first-rate production that is state of the art while somehow echoing late 80’s albums such as FABULOUS DISASTER and IMPACT IS EMINENT. The guitars- always a mainstay of the Exodus sound- are up front and the clarity is pristine while never sacrificing intensity. As for the drumming, Tom Hunting is once again in top-form, with tones that are vibrant and powerful. In an era where drum samples make up a huge part of most producer’s arsenal of powerful in a pre-fabricated box of go-to tricks, it’s nice to hear some real drum tones on a metal album again. The bass guitar propels the rhythms along with a menacing growl, while the guitar solos offer plenty of melodic yet outstandingly fluid gymnastics that weave in between a slippery blues-meets-minor-key weirdness that always seem just on the edge of losing control. Even Metallica guitarist Kirk Hammett (and a former member of Exodus ) contributes his trademarked wah-wah kinetics on the track “Salt The Wound. ”
BLOOD IN, BLOOD OUT marks the return of vocalist Steve “Zetro” Souza after over a decade of time away. Bear in mind that I haven’t a negative thing to say about the work of previous singer Rob Dukes, whose powerful hardcore-tinged voice kept the band thriving and recording crushing albums through these last years. But, I will go on record as saying Zetro the voice of Exodus for my generation. I was a bit young to see them with original vocalist Paul Baloff (R.I.P) but I grew up on Steve’s razor-edged voice at the front of this band’s sound, and it is great to hear him ripping through these tunes with vengeance. His voice has never sounded better.
All of this is wrapped inside the brilliant cover art by Par Olofsson, which features a hoard of zombie-like creatures ravenously devouring themselves set against an apocalyptic sky of yellow and red primary colors blasting out like a nuclear explosion. This image is very reminiscent of the classic horror-meets-metal album covers of the 1980’s, and is a perfect visual representation of the musical devastation to come. With BLOOD IN, BLOOD OUT, Exodus is driving home with authority that they are godfathers of the genre, and they are a force to be reckoned with. While not considered one of the “Big Four” ( a/k/a Megadeth, Metallica, Slayer, Anthrax) founders of thrash metal, Exodus are certainly the “Big 5th” band both by legitimate pedigree and their ability to crush with an intensity that is truly as deadly as their first strike over 30 years ago.